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Sep 1, 2007

American Popstar: Road to Celebrity Overview

American Popstar: Road to Celebrity is a character-driven simulation that pokes fun at reality television shows in general, and at Fox's American Idol in particular. Players create their own popstar wannabes by choosing gender, skin tone, clothing, and haircut, and then guide the characters through a satirical role-playing adventure. The game is set in a reality TV show, in which the player's character must balance a rocky love life, a sneaky rival on the set, a camera crew that follows them everywhere, and a crazy family back home. Mini-game activities allow players to perform concerts, hobnob with virtual celebrities, and develop relationships with other characters.

Aug 31, 2007

Medieval II: Total War - Kingdoms

PUBLISHER: Sega DEVELOPER: The Creative Assembly GENRE: Strategy ESRB RATING: Teen MINIMUM REQUIREMENTS: 1.5GHz CPU, 512MB RAM, 9GB hard drive space, 128MB videocard, Medieval II: Total War MULTIPLAYER: 2-8 players

Review: Install Medieval II: Total War—Kingdoms on your PC and you get not one, not two, but four separate executables and desktop shortcuts to enjoy—you can almost hear developer Creative Assembly shouting, “Cripes, man, look at how much game you’re getting here!” And it’s true: Kingdoms is a monster of an expansion, though instead of piling on new features or fiddling much with the game design, it takes the route of simply offering players a ton more to do. You liked the first game? Well, here’s a lot more of it, dammit.
Pretty much everything we said about the original Medieval II holds true here: the turnbased campaign is the game’s strength, and the real-time battles are impressively detailed and tactically rich, but ultimately too same-y. (I personally prefer tapping the “autoresolve” button
and playing the game that way.) The developers evidently understood the campaign’s strength,
too, as that’s the crux of the new content: four complete, very distinct new campaigns—titled
Britannia, Crusades, Teutonic, and Americas— with new maps and factions to play with. A new faction in Medieval II isn’t the same as a new faction in most RTS games, of course; the difference between the Aztecs and Wales is hardly the difference between the Protoss and the Zerg. And so the maps are the biggest draw, as they focus the theater of war to the Middle East (in the case of the Crusades campaign) or the New World (Americas) or a far more detailed representation of the British Isles (Britannia) than you stomped on in the original Medieval II.

Aug 26, 2007


PUBLISHER: 2K Games DEVELOPER: 2K Boston/2K Australia GENRE: First-Person Shooter ESRB RATING: Mature MINIMUM REQUIREMENTS: 2.4GHz CPU, 1GB RAM, 8GB hard drive space, 128MB videocard, Internet connection

Tvvo corpses, dressed to t.he nines, embrace on a filthy mattress in t.he back room of a bar. A bottle of sleeping pills lies spilled on t.he floor…& judging by t.he texture & color of
t.he couple’s skin, they dovvned t.he missing tablets months ago. An old tape recorder one of t.he many left conveniently scattered around t.he undervvater museum mausoleum of Rapture crackles vvith t.he thick Russian accent of t.he vvoman on t.he mattress, vvailing that she had just spotted her missing daughter on t.he street, & that she had become 1 of those…those things—t.he Little Sisters, t.he living dead dolls that cravvl around Rapture, consuming corpses & calling them angels. Screvv t.he ammo in t.he corner & t.he gene tonic hiding in t.he vvall: In BioShock, sometimes a room is t.he greatest revvard.
Here’s a game that serves as t.he perfect counterpoint to Roger Ebert’s notorious assertion that
games ain’t art (if you care about such crap), & not just because Rapture really is a magnificent museum of t.he morbid, its fascinating tap e.recorder diaries like discarded Alcatraz audio.tour headsets. Ebert cites “player control” as 1 of gaming’s biggest hurdles to t.he “A” vvord, but BioShock’s big message is that choice is largely an illusion. You think you’re making decisions, but really, someone else is pulling t.he strings, vvhether it’s a character quite pointedly
planting thoughts in our brain or level designers directing u to t.he next important hallvvay.
“You are being manipulated,” BioShock says, over and over again. Puppeteers hand out unassailable assignments, reservations (is Tenenbaum playing me now?) and ethical objections (did Sander Cohen just ask me to become a cold-blooded murderer?) be damned. Instead of asking, “How would you like to do this?” BioShock asks, “How do you feel now that you’ve been forced to?”—and, on a few occasions, it gives you the opportunity to say a cathartic “f***
you” to the crazy postobjectivist monster who just played you. Then it grins and asks again, “Now how do you feel?” BioShock’s greatest achievement is getting you to answer back.
While games like The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion and Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic offer muddy morality choices through dialogue trees, BioShock offers only one clear decision with any big repercussions: Kill little girls or save them? Pitch-black or glowing white? Either option leads down surprisingly similar paths, the only major difference being an unfulfilling “bad” ending that basically says, “Even when you choose, you’ve got no choice.” While you have little say in what path you wander, you ironically have plenty when it comes to how you follow it: Mix and match plasmids, weapons, and incidental explosive barrels to your liking—or don’t.

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